What It’s About:
A warm, wry, sharply observed debut novel about what happens when a family is forced to spend a week together in quarantine over the holidays…
It’s Christmas, and for the first time in years the entire Birch family will be under one roof. Even Emma and Andrew’s elder daughter—who is usually off saving the world—will be joining them at Weyfield Hall, their aging country estate. But Olivia, a doctor, is only coming home because she has to. Having just returned from treating an epidemic abroad, she’s been told she must stay in quarantine for a week…and so too should her family.
For the next seven days, the Birches are locked down, cut off from the rest of humanity—and even decent Wi-Fi—and forced into each other’s orbits. Younger, unabashedly frivolous daughter Phoebe is fixated on her upcoming wedding, while Olivia deals with the culture shock of being immersed in first-world problems.
As Andrew sequesters himself in his study writing scathing restaurant reviews and remembering his glory days as a war correspondent, Emma hides a secret that will turn the whole family upside down.
In close proximity, not much can stay hidden for long, and as revelations and long-held tensions come to light, nothing is more shocking than the unexpected guest who’s about to arrive.
Francesca Hornak’s debut novel, Seven Days of Us, is an interesting blend of family drama, humor, and character study. I loved and hated it. I have to admit, that I struggled with the first few chapters, but I eventually got into the even rhythm of the story. The layout is interesting, and the characters were deliciously unlikable—some were the sort you love to hate, while others had to reveal themselves wholly in order to care for them.
Seven days of quarantine, and each character shares the narration for any particular day. Every day the family members’ existence, memories, and revelations are revealed. The Birch family is not particularly likeable. As individuals, they have secrets and they harbor resentments. They’re self absorbed. As family, they’re not much better. This is a seriously dysfunctional family. They don’t communicate, share, or offer support. Not one of them looks to the family as a bastion from their problems. They have grown apart, and each cocoons him-or her-self in their own little world. The lack of identity as a family unit is tragic, and seven days of forced togetherness without outside diversion seems tortuous.
Avoid spoiler reviews that summarize the plot. While there are no big twists, as the story chunks along, day by day of the forced quarantine, and the tension mounts as the characters get moody and cranky as their old baggage/arguments resurface. The family dynamics become barely contained chaos with the addition of a couple unplanned, additions to the ancestral country home.
The upheaval created by these guests changed my view of the characters dramatically. Those unexpected, unwanted guests force the members of the Birch family to become more introspective about their choices and actions, and subsequently, Andrew, Emma, Olivia, and Phoebe are laid open to one another.
Seven Days of Us is about family. It is about secrets and lies destroying relationships. It’s about omissions and unspoken resentments being as deadly as a bold-faced lie. It’s about reasons to again believe that your family will do anything and everything for you. You can return home again.